By SHERRY SIMKOVIC
For The News-Letter
The Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium (MSE) and the Hopkins Organization for Programming (HOP) hosted Josh Ostrovsky, also known as The Fat Jew, on Tuesday in Shriver Hall. Associate Dean of Student Life for Student Engagement Tiffany Sanchez served as moderator for the discussion.
Known as a comedy and an Instagram sensation, Ostrovsky discussed how he got his start in the business.
“Instagram is so weird,” Ostrovsky said. “I was doing really crazy stuff long before there was social media. So I was doing all this ridiculous stuff and once there was a place to put stuff, it seemed like a good idea.”
Ostrovsky explained that one of the first jobs he did was working with E! and lesser known celebrities, such as the Real Housewives of Tampa Bay.
“I do stuff that I hope takes you away from your life for a minute,” Ostrovsky said. “When I started, it was a New York thing. It was very alternative.”
According to Ostrovsky, Instagram widened his fan base and made his work more accessible to the general public. He added that he recently signed a baby.
“They were a totally normal couple. The guy was wearing khakis,” Ostrovsky said. “I like that it’s become more mainstream.”
Sanchez asked how Ostrovsky’s Instagram account worked.
“I post funny stuff. It’s a combination of stuff I made, stuff I’ve found,” Ostrovsky said. “People also send me stuff. I have people from all over the world sending me stuff and if I think that it’s funny I post it.”
Sanchez asked if Ostrovsky ever feels the pressure to be funny.
“I try not to think about it. I try not to care,” Ostrovsky said. “The other day, Brooke Shields came up to me in New York. It was two o’clock on a weekday and she was drunk. She told me that she loves me.”
Ostrovsky jokingly added that his current concern is whether Shields might “unfollow” him on social media. Sanchez proceeded to discuss posting pictures of dogs on Instagram.
“Nowadays, for your dog to truly kill the Instagram game they have to have a physical deformity,” Ostrovsky said. “My dog has no teeth, so her tongue always hangs out, which is super sad but also super marketable.”
Ostrovsky added that his dog has her own schedule because of how popular the Instagram account is which, according to Ostrovsky, “is a testament to, like, how stupid 2015 is.”
Ostrovsky’s recently released book is titled Money Pizza Respect and discusses social media burnout.
“We’re inundated with constant amounts of social media stimuli,” Ostrovsky said. “I’m trying to get to real life. I’m hoping to go from URL to IRL [in real life].”
He explained that writing the book started as a joke and a way to convince millennials, the most challenging group of people to reach, to read something.
Sanchez then asked Ostrovsky about his favorite part of the book. He responded that when she was younger, his mother had a brief relationship with Shel Silverstein, the famous children’s poet who wrote Where the Sidewalk Ends.
“She’s not that happy,” Ostrovsky jokingly added. “People at her synagogue definitely saw it. But she left me a four-minute voicemail the other day about a lunch she had with her friends, so we’re good.”
Ostrovsky then discussed his own college experience. He said that he was expelled from New York University for poor grades and then subsequently expelled from Skidmore College because of an incident involving “boiled potatoes, a slingshot, a parking lot and a peeing sorority sister.”
Sanchez then brought up Ostrovsky’s recent appearance on stage with Britney Spears.
“I get lots of offers to do weird stuff,” Ostrovsky said. “And I do almost all of them.”
Ostrovsky added that recently he had been flown out the Cannes Film Festival and taken on a yacht. He said that inside the yacht, there was an ostrich named Bradley Cooper.
“It gets weirder and weirder every day,” Ostrovsky said. “Going from Britney Spears getting whipped on stage to Johns Hopkins. Do I get an honorary degree or something?”
Sanchez asked Ostrovsky about his multitude of aliases and tattoos. Ostrovsky has hundreds of aliases.
“It’s how I sign my emails,” he said.
As for the tattoos, Ostrovsky said that people used to pay for him to get tattoos.
“I have a ship on my arm that says ‘friendship’ on it. Get it?” Ostrovsky said. “I also have two pieces of pizza that make a Jewish star. My ink is all over the place.”
The discussion was then opened up to questions from the audience. Some questions were humorous, while others were more serious.
One question regarded the potential longevity of Ostrovsky’s career and whether or not he will be doing what he is doing now in the long-term.
“I’m going to have my own Wikipedia page,” Ostrovsky said. “Instagram is supposed to be an addendum to who I am. If you meet other people who are doing what I do, they’re not funny. They have nothing to say. I do other stuff. Being able to culturally commentate on stuff, that’s an important skill for 2015.”
One audience member asked Ostrovsky to pick who, in his opinion, was the most desperate: Justin Bieber during his comeback season, Leonardo DiCaprio during awards season or Kylie Jenner. Ostrovsky decided that Jenner was the most desperate.
Some questions were a bit more serious. One audience member asked about the allegations of plagiarism against him.
“Plagiarism needs to be talked about,” Ostrovsky said. “I’m smack in the middle of it. I kind of became the face of it. I felt like I was being scapegoated because the Internet is kind of super lawless.”
Another question regarded Ostrovsky’s performance art before he became a social media sensation.
“I don’t want to say I invented filling Jacuzzis with food and sitting in them but I invented that. I rented an alpaca recently and just drove around in my convertible with it for a day,” Ostrovsky said. “But I didn’t post that anywhere. All this crazy stuff happens but you don’t have your phone on you so people don’t believe you. It’s fun just to do it. Real life is about to get hot.”
Overall, audience members seemed to enjoy the event.
“Josh was really funny. I follow him on Instagram, and I wasn’t a hundred percent sure what to expect,” freshman Sarah Denenberg said. “He was really funny to watch.”
Sophomore Dylan Vargas also encountered Ostrovsky’s humor for the first time.
“I actually didn’t know who Josh was before I went,” Vargas said. “But I’m glad I went because I got to experience someone and something I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to.”